An essay question is given below. This question constitutes a controversial issue in the Civil War period. Your job is to be the historian, take a stance on the issue, and use historical evidence from your notes, the textbook, and the primary source book This Fiery Trial to substantiate your argument. You will not be graded on your point of view; but rather, you will be graded on how well you employ historical evidence in order to prove your thesis statement and your supporting arguments. Also, I have included a prompt on the rules for good historical essays and a breakdown of a sample historian’s argument regarding Indians. Your essay should be structured in a similar way.
You have a whole week in order to prepare for this essay question, so it is advisable for you to go back and peruse your class notes and your text, and write out a rough draft for the question before you submit your final draft. Do not allow the final question to catch you unawares. Remember where there is a will, there is an A!
The total points for the final is 150 pts. That is 1/3 of your grade! You will be graded on the quality of your explanation and on the breadth and suitability of the historical examples given. Your essay should be relevant to the question, and the information presented in a clear, logical and coherent fashion.
There is no page limit on this essay. What matters for this paper is quality over quantity; namely, if you can beautifully articulate your point in two pages, then that is fine. If it takes you ten pages, then that is okay too. However, the more relevant evidence you adduce, the more convincing your arguments, and, thus, the better your grade.
You must cite your sources! You may use Chicago style or MLA format—just so long as you professionally give credit where it is due. Plagiarism is a heinous crime in academia, so those who plagiarize or cheat on this test will be drawn and quartered; namely, you run the risk of exam disqualification and a course F. Be warned!
As regards to your research, the question requires content that can be derived partly from my lectures (Module 7: The American Civil War) and partly from the Norton text (chapters 11, 12, and 13). Also, it is highly advisable that you peruse your This Fiery Trial book in order to cull primary source evidence on Lincoln’s position regarding American slavery. Also, feel free to pursue wider research, beyond the course materials, if you are so motivated. It will pay dividends in the quality of your answer. Just make sure that you consult credible academic sources and be wary of sources like Wikipedia!
Lastly, some advice for my students. It has been my goal in this class to not only teach you all history, but also, I have sought to teach you the tools of the historian: how to identify historical significance, how to analyze historical primary sources, and how to construct a historical argument. It is my hope that by the end of this class, you will not only have learned American history, but you will also have become a historian in the process. And one rule historians live by is to always contextualize their subject! That means that when you judge Lincoln in your essay, you may not judge him against 21st century standards. To hold a historical subject against one’s own modern standards makes for very bad history. Therefore, when you examine Lincoln or cast your judgment on him, compare him to his peers and judge him against the standards of the 19th century. This will make you sound like a professional and objective historian.
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